Cameron Argon (Big Chocolate/Disfiguring the Goddess) - 04.23.12
Cameron Argon might not be a name you recognize at first read, but his musical projects Big Chocolate and Disfiguring the Goddess might ring a bell. The death metal-leaning sounds of Disfiguring the Goddess recently brought us a new record in the form of Sleeper, an album that Argon wrote, programmed and recorded entirely by himself. About a week or so ago, we had a pretty lengthy and open phone conversation about both musical outlets, his rather hilarious t-shirts for Disfiguring the Goddess and how what he did on Sleeper is influencing his work on the new Big Chocolate record.
To get things started, could you give us a brief history lesson as how as how you got started with Disfiguring the Goddess and what youíve done up until this point with the release of Sleeper?
It basically started out when I was about fifteen, sixteen as like a high school garage band type of thing. I played in a few bands and what not, but this is one of the bands I actually liked. This is in my opinion my main band, but nobody really has a main band when theyíre fifteen [laughs]. We started this band and got to go to neighborhood kids with a computer and an m-box and theyíd record demos for us. When I was fifteen, I got a summer job at Arbyís to buy a computer because I wanted to record myself and I didnít want to outsource it to other people. So I got a computer and we started recording demos and after all our songs were recorded, I asked myself what I was going to do with that computer. I started writing music. Hip-hop, electronic, newer metal stuff. Eventually with the live members, it got to a point where... you know how you grow up in a really small town and when you get old enough thereís really no point in staying around? It just got to the point where I was writing it all on the computer anyways. My senior year was when I realized like, the computerís half the band, you know? Since then, Iíve recorded all the guitar, bass and vocals. The drums are programmed. Itís all written on the computer. I donít pre-write anything and then head over to the computer and record it. When it was a garage band, weíd played some local shows and stuff. Iíve never played any shows as it has been around as today. Iíll make some music on my computer and then Iíll release it. But this is the release where itís taken the most to actually come out. Itís the first time Iíll have a hard copy of an album. Itís the first time Iíve gotten major backing from other bands and what not, itís the first time itís gotten streamed on the internet. I didnít just put it up. It was the first album that I went all out on to kind of set the standard and have people aware of what it is. People before were like, ĎIs it a band, is it a tour? Who plays guitar?í This is the album where Iím like, itís not a band, itís me and my computer. Iím gonna put out music like once or twice a year from here on out. Thatís what Sleeper is kind of about to me Ė the first foot in the ground as far as what it is and having people aware of what it is.
Some people might know you from what you do under the moniker of Big Chocolate. How would you say your writing and production approach for Disfiguring the Goddess differs from what you do with your electronic work?
Before I got more well-known as an electronic artist, I was always making electronic music. But the metal part was taking all the shine because that was what got noticed from some vocal videos I did in high school. I started making metal remixes like Suicide Silence, Ion Dissonance and stuff. But I took all the techniques and approaches I knew to making metal and applied it to electronic music. Then the more I tried to make electronic music, the Big Chocolate stuff started to take off. When I got that offer for Warped Tour, it was really weird because I had just started to make electronic music as far as taking it seriously. It was maybe a month of making electronic music and then I got the offer. It was pretty serious. Since then, Iíve dove headfirst into electronic production and I feel like this new album has been inspired by all the new tricks Iíve learned with dance music. Itís funny because when I first started making dance music it was inspired the other way around. The next Big Chocolate record is pretty much all the creativity found when I was making this DTG record. Itís cool how both of them influence each other and help each other out even though they are both polar opposites.
How did the writing and recording for this record fall into your schedule with the touring and what not youíve been doing for Big Chocolate?
This sounds kind of dumb, but the actual record, all the music, took me about two weeks to make and record, and then the vocals took an extra week. The only reason the vocals took a week was because I canít stand doing vocals anymore. If it doesnít come out perfect the first take, Iíll be discouraged and kind of irritated. In December and January as far as Big Chocolate stuff, I didnít have that many shows going. Maybe three each month, which in March I was doing something like four shows a week in different parts of the country. Two airplane flights and a show for each show and then four shows a week Ė thatís a lot. It takes a lot of time and energy, but in December and January I had the time. I pretty much cranked out the whole record then. The way I write is pretty simple. I use a program called Superior 2.0 by a company called Toontrack, I use that program for my electronic music as well. I make drum patterns and then I riff over it. Itís almost like you write and record at the same exact time which is cool because it makes it easy. Itís quick, easy and fun. Itís pretty effective too.
You spoke a little about how this is basically you and your computer as far as this project goes. Weighing out the pros and cons of that, do you feel like doing all the writing yourself restricts you from other peopleís ideas or at this point would you rather say this is your project, that kind of mindset?
When I first started making this kind of music, I was really trying to fit guidelines and whatever. When I listen to death metal and stuff, it was super brutal death metal. I loved Hate Eternal, Vomit the Soul. I tried to make it all fit in those little guidelines. Maybe throw like a synth pad over it Ė which was pushing it. This album, I donít even really care anymore. I donít care about being cool in the metal scene. I donít care about the stuff that comes along with being an active member of the actual metal scene. Most of the metal scene is online now when you put a record out. It gets on blogs and things and people piss on it and pick on little things, like even awesome albums people hate on them. Everyone likes that demo that was recorded in a bush, like you know? This album I said I was going to do whatever I want. I went all out as far as getting ideas down. I would have some weird progressive synth pattern with some offbeat, really heavy slam, Ion Dissonance riffs. I just wanted to put everything in one thing. I didnít want to have any sort of genre guidelines. I wanted to be more creative than try to fit some sort of guideline like brutal slam or death metal. If I was just doing like, only slam riffs, Iíd probably make one or two songs and be done with it and be over it. And I donít have any members in the band, so I donít have anyone fighting or bickering over how much is too much. I can do whatever I want. I think this album is the first time I kind of realized everything. I do this on my computer. Thereís nothing else going on. I just kind of let loose and go with the flow. Like if this sounds cool and might be kind of neat, I just go with it. Iíve been trying to express that to the fans from the older days that just kind of like the brutal death metal and now hate DTG because thereís all this other stuff in it. By other stuff, I mean I guess not just the upper four riffs the entire time. Iím trying to put out that Iím over trying to fit things. I donít care anymore, I just want to make music.
At this day and age, itís kind of impossible to please everyone, you know?
Exactly. That goes along with the guys that only like the demo that was recorded in a bush. The other day, some songs from this album started coming out and people were like, ĎI wish your vocals were more like the old days,í or, ĎI wish your guitar tone was less this tone and more like the old tone.í Like you listen to the EPs I was doing when I was seventeen. I was talking to this guy, his name is Shiv, or JJ Polachek, he does vocals for the band 7 Horns 7 Eyes. Iíve been talking to him for the past four years on the internet, so we talk about metal, make fun of everything type of relationship. He sent me the link to this song I did awhile ago saying he still liked this song a lot. And I listened to it, and I canít hear a single note Iím playing on the guitar right now. Thereís like three layers of vocals over the whole thing. And heís like, ĎYeah, this is the best worst production Iíve ever heard.í [laughs] I donít want to play a song where I donít know what the guitar is playing the whole time. Itís just not what I want to do anymore.
As you mentioned, youíve been doing remixes for bands. How do you feel that that work has transferred over to the writing that you do for Disfiguring the Goddess?
I wouldnít say those remixes... when you do a remix you get the stems. When you do that with a metal band, you get to see each and every part of the music. You can listen to the song with just the guitars and you take that and make it into a new thing. I guess thatís kind of seeing how those bands break it down. I donít think it helps the metal anymore... at all [laughs]. Itís neat to see how some of these bands do what they do and you can really pay attention to detail when you have each little bit of it. As far as extra influence, I donít think it really adds any.
How do you feel what youíre doing with DTG gives you a different voice as an artist as opposed to what you do with Big Chocolate?
I think itís kind of a neat, cool thing. The past eight months Iíve been hitting this electronic stuff really hard, touring all the time and working my head off. When I play these shows with these more established DJs and producers... no one has bands in that world. Itís all one dude that makes music. When there is a green room of DJs, itís like five people. Thatís a lot of artists in one room for that scene. In a touring band, five people is one band. Itís like, you get more to do face-to-face talks in that scene. Everyone is talking about production tips and they get to know each other. Sometimes, the metal stuff will come out and theyíll be like, ĎYou do that stuff too?í And Iíll show them like a video and dudes start cracking up. But I think itís given me a pretty good edge. My first major things I did with electronic music were remixing bands and playing Warped Tour. That alone gives it some edge, but the fact I make metal benefits it. Like, Iím starting an underground death metal label. I havenít really worked out all the details or made a Facebook page or whatever [laughs]. But I am making a label where I can sign cool little acts where I can teach them things like supporting yourself and catering to your own fans. The whole do-it-yourself attitude type of thing. Last month I played Ultra Music Festival, and when Iím doing press for that thing itíll be pretty cool. ĎSo tell me something interesting about what youíre doing.í ĎI run an underground death metal label.í ĎWhat!?í You write dance music and run a death metal label. I always thought that would be really cool.
I wondered what kind of reaction that gives people.
Itís just weird, no one is really remixing metal right now. Like, thereís a buzz going towards it. Like the new Korn album is probably the biggest example. Thereís not a whole lot of it out, but everyone is pulling the same ten bangers of that month. Then I go up and play a Whitechapel remix and everyone is like what the hell are you doing up there? Even if they donít know I have all the metal stuff going on the side, the actual Big Chocolate tracks are more metal-based. I think if they knew the whole picture theyíd understand it better [laughs]. Itíll come in time.
What made you personally decide to release the instrumentals to this record in one form or another?
When I was doing all these vocal videos in the early days, I would record myself on my iMacís camera over like an instrumental of a song or one of my songs. One time I did a Faceless cover and I asked them and they gave me the song. But people would always ask where did I get these songs from. I make them. Two years ago, I did a vocal contest where I made an instrumental track and had people do their own take on it. For what it was, it went over really well. I donít remember how many submissions there were, maybe like 300, but for me that was a huge deal and a lot of videos to watch. I remember thinking, ĎThatís what people that do covers do.í Theyíll put an album on and just scream over the vocals. I was thinking, if I release a song, everyone that wants to practice vocals will be doing it over this disc. I think it kind of goes back to where I started out and kind of keep seeking that fire. I know Iím planning on doing another vocal contest now that the albums out. I have to think about how I should get this label going and get this contest going. But Iím going to do a similar thing where people like make their own version of these songs. Not do a karaoke version of what I did, but pick a song on the album and do your own take on it and the coolest one gets a guest vocal spot on my next album or something. Then all of a sudden you have every kid [laughs] that loves screaming on the internet, will be screaming on the internet on these songs. Itíll be LOLs for days [laughs]. If they werenít in the loop and didnít know about these songs... ĎOh, itís the DTG instrumental album here. If we win we can get our vocals on the next record and our deathcore band will be huge after that.í That will be funny. Itís not the only reason. Thereís a lot of people that donít know I did all the instrumental work on these songs, and I want people... when I mentioned earlier about the vocals, I went back and listened to the album before I added vocals. I didnít want to add anything because I thought it was going to ruin the whole thing. So I kind of wanted that out as well so they could hear that and hear the ideas before the vocals came on. Bottom line, itís just fun.
I saw a comment on Facebook on the DTG profile about the artwork of this album. Basically something along the lines of, ĎIf you donít know who did the artwork, you donít own enough death metal,í or something like that. Can you talk a little about how you worked with Toshihiro Egawa on the artwork for this release and how you got familiar with his work? How do you feel it is reflective of the album as a whole?
As far as that comment, ĎIf you canít recognize this artwork, then you donít own enough brutal death metal albums,í the metal world is small. But the brutal underground death metal world is so... small... so small. The same vocalists are in like every single band. Derek Boyer from Suffocation played in like every single death metal band that ever had any significance. Itís really small. Thereís really a few artists that do most of it. Thereís one, his name is Mark Riddick. He does a ton of art for bands. He does some bigger metal bands too, like he did some Arsis shirts that were awesome. Thereís... I want to say Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. [laughs], but [Mike Majewski] from Devourment. Then thereís Toshihiro Egawa who does tons of art for these brutal death metal bands. I just think all those styles are super similar, because they are death metal, but they have there own differences. Iíve always been a fan of his artwork, Iíve always liked albums he did artwork for. I [told myself I] should have him do my next album. The artwork doesnít have any sort of logo on it. That always bugs me. These artists will do this insanely detailed, hand-drawn death metal masterpieces and then the band will stick a logo on it and cover up everything. I think thatís almost like a low blow to the artist. If I ever get artwork like this, Iím not putting a logo on it. I think when I told Toshi and he knew it was done, he asked ĎWhere do you want the logo, do you want it like this or like this?í No man, I donít want a logo I just want the artwork. I want it to look awesome. I want everyone to see how awesome this is. I know itís cool for everyone to have these huge concepts when they write an album or whatever, but Iíve been doing all these interviews recently and everyone is like, ĎWhatís the concept?í and Iím like, ĎUh... uh.í And then I was thinking about it, and I kind of write about the same stuff over and over again. Thatís sort of the concept [laughs]. I always think about underwater type of stuff and this weird epic stuff. I remember when Toshi and I first got into contact and he asked what I wanted the album art to be. I said, ĎI have no idea.í I guess in like a few emails, we shot off a few ideas together... something to do with a planet and whatever he said, I was like, ĎYeah, that sounds good.í I mean, I picked him for his style, and I knew whatever he drew it would be cool. I think at one point I said, ĎI chose you for your style, just do whatever you want.í [Laughs] thatís kind of how it came about. It came out great. All the ideas are awesome. The details are insane. I have this like, 59 megabyte file on my computer of the artwork. Iím gonna blow it up and put it in my house somewhere. Just like look at it, like, ĎThat was so cool [laughs].í
You spoke a little bit about playing out with Disfiguring the Goddess. Do you feel like at some point it might make its way into your Big Chocolate set or perhaps find a way to play these songs live under this name?
Kind of. When I was making dance music these past few months, the process is... you take a hook and you build off that. You have a beat and an intro and a release, then you have a buildup then a drop and you just kind of repeat stuff. So all of that gets based off of one idea. The idea itself isnít good, it is kind of hard to get the flow going. When I did this metal album, I was like, you start with riff A and then riff B and keep going until the song is done. Itís like youíre walking in a line. You can start with anything and the end of the song can be totally different. The structuring of the song in metal is more like you just keep going as opposed to you have a hook and you keep resorting back to that. It was so fun and creative and I was having such a good time, I said I had to find a way to bring that to my dance music. Basically, I started writing these southern rock songs... and I would bounce out the stems and then I would remix the structuring based on the song I had. I was coming up with these ideas that were super fun, super forward thinking. That is pretty much the huge drive behind the new Big Chocolate album that is coming out in the next few months... probably. It changed my outlook on everything. When I started this, when I started Commissioner with Mitch [Lucker] from Suicide Silence, it was that whole linear thinking. I didnít know how to make dance music so I was doing it this way. Then I got carried along with trying to have acceptable structuring and everything and now I just donít care. I just want to do what I want. So, Iím kind of going back to where I started. Except now, I know how to mix. Then I was thinking, I even tweeted this a few days ago, I need to have DTG cover a Big Chocolate song and Big Chocolate cover a DTG song. Then I got a bunch of funny responses like, ĎOnly you have the power.í Stuff like that. I think eventually I make some sort of Big Chocolate live set with the DTG stuff. Itíll be kind of a kickback to what I did in DTG. But as far as taking DTG live, thereís probably a 99.99% chance that thatíll ever happen. Like after touring in the Big Chocolate stuff... actually in like 2009 I did a tour with a San Diego band called Burning the Masses in Europe with Suffocation. It was my first taste of being a band and touring. I only did music for fun. I decided to go to college. And thatís when I did that tour to see if this was something that I really wanted to do was go to school and carry on my life and forget about music as it being the main thing in my life. I did that and I came back, and I said I would never, ever... it just wasnít for me. I donít want to do the whole touring thing. I wasnít feeling it at all. It wasnít like... the tour went well, I have a good relationship with those guys. Right when I got back was when all the electronic stuff started taking off and I enjoyed that a lot more. More my style as far as everything goes. But as far as taking DTG live, fat, fat chance. I always get questions about it too. Like, no. And then one kid said, what if other people do it for you? What the hell would that be? That would totally ruin the point. So I doubt it, but as far as me solo doing some sort of remixed version of something... possibly. Probably. The hardcore fans of metal stuff that hate electronic stuff are not gonna come out to hear, I donít know, three minutes worth of remixed metal in an hour-long set [laughs].
Thereís a pretty divisive line between electronic music and death metal. You donít find very many people that waver on both sides.
Itís funny because doing this touring stuff solo Iíve seen a lot of fans will show up with DTG t-shirts. Thatís awesome. I canít believe youíre hear right now. Weíre defying the laws of physics right now by you being here and having a good time.
The ĎSlamuel L. Jacksoní shirt might be the greatest shirt Iíve ever seen.
I think itís the greatest shirt Iíve ever seen as well. A writer named Sergeant D that does stuff on MetalSucks and he has his own site called Stuff You Will Hate. I went to him and said I need some pretty ironic tee ideas. Like I donít care anymore how it is. When a band puts out merch, itís all pre-meditated and all planned out. Iím here to have fun and enjoy everything. Letís get some dumb ideas coming. The next day there was an article on the site to design t-shirts for it, and I picked two of them. The ĎIím a Real Creeperí, which is the Minecraft Creeper brutalized and the Slamuel L. Jackson shirt. And when he saw the pre-orders with the shirts in them, he was like, ĎI canít believe you actually used those.í That was the whole reason I did it in the first place. Slamuel L. Jackson is the greatest shirt ever. I donít even have one. I need to get one. I think Iím going to send one to my mom also.
Is there anything else youíd like to add?
One other thing. I have a daily video blog. I make videos almost every single day and I put them online. I know a lot of the metal kids donít like them because... I donít know. Thereís different times when Iím making an album that my pH isnít tuned in for them. I usually film quite a bit. Sometimes theyíll have a band in the studio like doing guitars. Iíll just start it up and pull up iTunes and play a final song and say, ĎHey, check it out!í A huge amount of sneak peeks and teasers from that YouTube channel. So I guess anyone who is more interested now than ever, check that out.
Love this guy =)
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